Good Sports: Gold Hunter
Published Jan 1, 2009 8:00 AM
Ask UCLA Assistant Women's Rowing Coach Mark Hunter what it feels like to be presented an Olympic gold medal, and he'll most likely just reach into his satchel, pull it out and hand it over.
Hunter, representing Great Britain with teammate Zac Purchase, won gold in the lightweight double sculls in Beijing last summer, just a few weeks after joining Head Coach Amy Fuller Kearney's staff. He finds membership in the gold medal club has its privileges.
"I haven't used it to get into any Hollywood clubs," Hunter says. "But I was able to open a bank account without a social security number when I showed them the medal and [an auto dealer] let me buy a car with a check just by showing it."
The coaching gig is the first steady employment Hunter has had since he began training for the 2004 Athens games eight years ago. By trade, Hunter is a qualified Waterman and Lighterman, trained to ferry passengers and goods on the River Thames, but sponsors allowed him to train full time. In Athens, his team finished last.
The fortitude that it took to go from worst to first should serve Hunter well with the Bruins, who return with Vanessa Teff, UCLA's three-time All-American, and look to rebound from what was for them a subpar 2007 season. "I've always been a good communicator," Hunter says. "And I've always been technically minded and know the psychology as well. I think I can really help the team with mental preparation."
Hunter is also learning a bit about working with women. "The way you coach women is a bit different. They tend to take more to heart, where guys might brush off something you've said," the Olympian explains. "But the training is no different."